Conflict and living heritage in the Middle East: Researching the Politics of Cultural Heritage and Identities in Times of War and Displacement

Organized by IfPO and the American University of Iraq there will be a conference on “Conflict and living heritage in the Middle East: Researching the Politics of Cultural Heritage and Identities in Times of War and Displacement” from 10-11 May 2016.

The following topics are of interest according to the Call for Papers:

Theme 1: Heritage and Conflict

In conflict situations, cultural heritage tends to become a contested area where relations of domination and violence are expressed, and where competing groups strive to assert legitimacy. This is manifested, inter alia, through unequal control over space (within urban areas, or on emblematic sites and monuments), and the often brutal removal of cultural attributes or markers attached to collective identities (regional, ethnic, religious, gendered, etc.). One central issue is how civilian populations, on the one hand, and political and military actors, on the other, engage with various forms of living heritage during and immediately after conflict. Discourses, representations, and practices have to be considered to understand the role of heritage as a vehicle for violence between groups, or conversely as a medium to de-escalate conflict and reach comprise.

Theme 2: Heritage and Displacement

More often than not, people displaced by conflict experience (usually in gendered ways) violence, a break up of social ties, and a radical separation from their places of origin. Such situations can also brutally severe people’s bonds with their tangible and intangible heritage, particularly when such heritage is targeted by warring parties. The interrelation between heritage and displacement opens up questions as regards the loss of identity reference points, the transformation and redefinition of heritage in exile, and the role heritage plays in the (re)construction of collective memory and cultural identity among refugees. Such issues have to be examined in different contexts and time-frames: in transient or liminal places (such as refugee camps, border or transit areas), or states (such as that of refugeeness), and when exile endures near or far from the homeland. An important question to be addressed is how experiences of exile become incorporated into new heritage discourses that serve as bases for collective memories and identities.